By Patrick T. Reardon
Hymn the sewer line.
Hymn the rhythm.
Hymn mown grass,
dawn-sun broken glass,
ash tray brass,
my scar, the rusted-nail fall.
Hymn the sink hole.
Hymn cinder alley,
the basketball-rimmed garage.
Hymn chaotic bloomed colors along the garbage fence.
The boy I am
studies in the concrete of my alley,
large smooth stones,
and seeks in their curves
answers to questions I don’t know to ask,
Breath, breath, all is breath.
Hymn transaction, traction.
Hymn long division.
Hymn lost and found,
the boy-brother seven-mile endurance
down the Lake Street el-track canal.
Hymn the crayons I melted
on the 5th grade radiator and
drew side views of Lincoln
as a conjurement.
Hymn the parquet floor, the open door,
the growl, the yowl, the pirouette, the give-and-go,
the vestibule mosaic, the bathroom tiles,
creosote planks, the silhouette Stations of the Cross,
butcher-shop six-point star.
Hymn sorting, shedding, shredding,
staying the course,
rubber-ball hockey in the snow alley,
computing my Lexon League batting average, .119.
Behind the Signboards facing Washington Boulevard,
tall weeds, mush cardboard, jagged glass bottles,
dogshit, a single discarded Playboy, charred ——
impromptu boy battle, small rocks
finto the weeds, out to the sidewalk,
one off my boy’s forehead, a glance, a graze,
no matter, but,
turning toward older girls walking past,
my sweat transubstantiated
to blood mapping my face,
Rivers of the World.
Hymn Leamington Avenue.
Hymn Granville Avenue.
Hymn Lindell Boulevard.
Hymn Mullholland Drive.
Hymn your own streets.
Hymn your own cities.
Hymn Saint Louis.
from lines of children shoes and underwear
on the family board,
a numbers graph, an organizational chart,
to the curve of the earth,
to the broken glass morning glint,
to dogshit alleys,
to street grid lines leading away,
leading to puzzle and more puzzle.
I breathe puzzlement.
I am at the map
and can follow West End east to the Loop
or Maypole west to California, to China,
to Russia, to Europe, to New York.
I am on the map and fly
to the edge of all that is
and back to the Bang.
Hymn curb trash:
twigs, a leaf,
a mud-thick mitten from winter,
a rosary crucifix unlinked.
Hymn links and unlinking.
Hymn clouds of incense.
I will go to the altar.
Hymn clouds of leaf-burn smoke.
Hymn street cleaning.
Hymn no parking,
Hymn don’t walk.
Hymn tree cover, plumbing, two-flats,
six-flats, courtyard buildings,
the bungalow belt, the forest preserve clearing,
lagoon scum, the dainty fox through the tombstones.
Hymn the asphalt street.
Hymn the gum, black on sidewalk concrete.
Hymn the elevated,
the elementary school,
the exit ramp.
Hymn sun soaking the red-brick wall,
my untranslatable scripture,
the word at the start and the end.
Patrick T. Reardon
This poem was originally published on The Write Launch on 9.1.19.